Pretty much as soon as flu season sweeps its way out of our community, many of us find ourselves infected with another “bug”: New House Fever.
Happens every spring. (And the other three seasons, too.)
Symptoms include spending hours wandering up and down the displays at the local home and garden shows, browsing online listings, reading the real estate section in the newspaper, and mapping out a route for the Parade of Homes.
And let’s be honest: As far as fevers go, this one is actually pretty cool.
In my opinion, the best situation is to be a first-time homebuyer who is living in a place without a long-term lease, which means your schedule is fairly flexible. As soon as you find a house you like, and the current occupants move out – if they haven’t already – you can load your stuff up and move right in.
It’s not quite as easy when you are trying to manage the timing of cascading dominoes involved with finding a house, negotiating its date of availability, while simultaneously trying to sell your current home, which you are of course in a hurry to do, but you sure don’t want to end up homeless if there is a gap between these two transactions.
But let’s skip all that for now and just talk about why house-shopping is so enjoyable.
First, you get to peek into all those big fancy houses that you’ve always gawked at while driving by. Even when those are not realistic options on your shopping list, it’s still fun to look.
And you might be amazed at what you will see.
I remember visiting one of those big houses years ago. How big was it? you ask. Well, I’ll tell you:
They had an entire room set aside just for gift-wrapping. Yes, really. An entire wall was covered with a pegboard with spools of ribbon. There were shelves and bins of wrapping paper, gift bags and tissue paper. There was an entire library of cards for every occasion. There were two enormous tables, each with its own carousel filled with scissors, tape, tags and markers.
The idea of a gift-wrapping room had never even occurred to me, but the moment I saw that room, wow, I really wanted one.
But back to reality.
When it came time for me to sell my house – which had once been filled with seven people but now was down to just me and my dog – and buy a new house, I knew I didn’t need – or really even want – another big house to clean and maintain – and to fill up with “stuff.”
I wanted a comfortable little house with just enough room for the things that are most important to me.
My helpful Realtor listened closely to my wish list, and called me every day with information about another house – or two or three – that he thought might be ideal. We went to look at all of them.
But I kept going back to the very first house he showed me.
It had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t.
It was situated in such a way that my front porch would be shady in the mornings – ideal for reading the newspaper in a rocking chair on the weekends – and the back yard was shady in the afternoons – ideal for sitting at my patio table, reading a book or talking on the phone, or just listening to the cicadas sing.
The floor plan was efficient and comfortable. No wasted space, no weird angles. Uncluttered and easy to clean.
There were only a few things about the house that I didn’t like, and they were all easily addressed. Just little things, like chrome fixtures in the bathroom. I like a dark bronze finish, but with one little trip to the big box store and a cheerful visit from a plumber – voila: Problem solved.
But here’s the secret to making sure that “the perfect house” is really the right house:
It pays, friends, to ask around about what the neighbors are like. Ask the neighbors themselves.
If they say the street is full of gossipy, petty, unfriendly, selfish people who wouldn’t loan you the proverbial cup of sugar to bake your own birthday cake – believe them.
If they say the street is full of wonderful, friendly, happy, helpful people who would jump-start your car on a cold winter morning and insist that you wait in the house with a cup of hot cocoa while they do it – you can believe them, too.
Because whether they know it or not, each of them is talking about himself.
And nothing makes a home happier than being surrounded by other happy homes.